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Old January 25th, 2010, 02:47 AM   #1
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Photo umbrella for softbox??

I have to travel in a couple of weeks for a one or two day shoot. In addition to 2 cameras, stands, tripod and audio gear, I'm bringing my light kit, but my two softboxes are almost impossible to break down. I was wondering wheteher I could use a white photo umbrella for a day or so, clamped on with enough distance from the light fixture. Would 600watt lights be too much heat for one of these?
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Old January 25th, 2010, 03:53 AM   #2
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You shouldn't have any problems doing that. In order for the beam to cover the umbrella you'll be a reasonable distance back anyway. I've used photographic umbrella reflectors with Redheads without a problem and I suspect that's closer to the light than you'll be.
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Old January 25th, 2010, 04:13 AM   #3
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Some soft-boxes are a pain to collapse with out taking your eye out, especially the octo type.

My only comment to add is when using umbrella's you can get unwanted light leaking from the sides are rear, they can get in your eye line or cast strange reflections. I would add a few flags in your kit just in case.
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Old January 25th, 2010, 10:45 AM   #4
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There are umbrellas with a white reflective surface and black backing to prevent light leaking through the rear. Photoflex | Convertible Umbrella-30" | UM-RUT30 | B&H Photo
There are also other options from Westcott and some cheaper ones from Impact and others and a variety of sizes available.

Good luck.

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Old January 25th, 2010, 10:51 AM   #5
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Thanks, giuys. I was most concerened about the heat on the metal frame of the umbrela. I turned on one last night for about 5 munutes and the metal frame inside the umbrela started to get pretty warm. Could it take 15 minutes or so?
Also I'll check into one of the models that dave mentioned to avoid light leakage from the back and sides.
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Old January 25th, 2010, 11:33 AM   #6
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I've never heard of anybody overheating an umbrella...unless you are using an extremely subpar umbrella, 600 watts should be fine. We used 1K DP lights regularly and never toasted an umbrella.
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Old January 25th, 2010, 12:10 PM   #7
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If everything you're going to shoot on your trip will be OK with a "high key" look - your umbrella approach will be fine. (A high key look is an overall bright scene with a relatively low range of contrast between light and dark areas)

While umbrellas increase the ratio of light in a particular direction, they also spill a LOT of light in all directions. (even behind them since typically they allow a lot of stray light to hit walls and ceilings that then reflects back behind the fixture.

So the whole environment will get a lot brighter as soon as this kind of reflective fixture is kicked on.

Contrast that with a softbox. A softbox will typically contain MORE of the generated light and keep more spill OFF the walls and ceiling. Add a fabric grid and the spill is cut tremendously.

This allows you to accomplish a "low key" look while still having the benefits of flattering soft light on your subject.

With high key, the scene looks as it looks. You're brightening everything equally.

With low key, you're working to prevent key light from hitting everywhere, so you have the option of using additional lights to add color, highlight objects, or simply let things you don't want emphasized to remain in the shadows or dark.

So in essence, umbrellas verses softboxes represent two completely different approaches to lighting.

One where the videographer is content to simply brighten what's already there with a wide, even wash of extra light - the other approach where the videographer seeks to control what's seen and unseen.

Both legitimate approaches. But definately NOT the same thing at all.

Hope that helps.
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Old January 25th, 2010, 06:57 PM   #8
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I HAVE cooked a photographic umbrella, about ten tears ago with a 1000w Redhead. The umbrella was one of the rubberized style umbrellas and in retrospect, I have NO idea why I thought it would have been appropriate. It came as part of a mid priced studio strobe flash kit that we had at the former studio I ran with my mentor.

If it LOOKS like you could cook it, you probably can. MOST modern umbrellas won't be of this type.
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Old January 26th, 2010, 09:44 AM   #9
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I use Lowell Rifa-Lites for video since they are so convenient and still give you softbox attributes. They basically work like an umbrella but the light is self-contained within and you have the choice of putting on the front diffusion (making it a softbox) or not. If you don't use it like a softbox there's no way to put any modifiers like barn-doors on them, but I either use it like a softbox or like this past weekend I pointed one at the ceiling without the diffusion in place to give some general bounce fill.

For portable strobist work I use 45" shoot-through umbrellas from Calumetphoto. They also have a removable black backing if you want to bounce into the umbrella but so far I've only done shoot-through with the backing removed.
Calumet 45" Umbrella With Removable Black Cover - AU3045 - AU3045

In your case using a 45" umbrella would give you a little longer distance between the lamp and the material. I doubt you'd burn anything at that distance but I'm not sure if they're recommended for that purpose and you'd have to be watchful. I've only used mine for strobes, not hot lights. I've found the products (like umbrellas) from Calumet have been better quality than some other web photo suppliers, but of course they cost more.
Photoflex is also good and you have a wider choice of dealers for them.

Last edited by Jay Massengill; January 26th, 2010 at 04:27 PM.
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Old January 26th, 2010, 10:33 AM   #10
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I've never used them with hot lights. You obviously have to be careful because of the fire hazard they present. The safe wattage and distances are factors that you'd have to test for yourself. I wouldn't recommend using the shoot through umbrella with the black backing that are enclosed because the heat build up.
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